In Getting Started with Apps in Speech Therapy, we’ve seen why speech-language pathologists and adults in speech therapy should consider using apps, which apps they should start with at home and in the clinic, iPad and app basics, and how to find and evaluate apps. In this seventh and final instalment, we offer six valuable tips for speech-language pathologists to help clients have positive experiences using apps for speech homework.
1) Teach the Basics
New users of technology or those with new impairments can learn to use an iPad, though it may require more direct teaching to master the basics. Be sure to start with instructions on how to turn the device on and off, how to navigate the screens, and how to get back to the Home screen. Practice gestures like tapping, swiping, dragging, and pinching. Use games the client enjoys to master these basic skills. Did you know that Solitaire was included with Windows to help people learn to use the mouse? It worked!
Try this brand-new free app to practice all the touch-screen gestures in a training program designed for seniors: UISEL Game
While these iPad basics aren’t communication skills, they are necessary to complete communication tasks (like using speech therapy apps, accessing email, or browsing the web). Taking a little time to teach a few key skills can open up the world of technology for your client.
2) Start Early
You know there will be a day when your client doesn’t have you to support their ongoing recovery, so don’t let that day sneak up on you. Start thinking early about the resources your client has available (people, technology, time, money) and make a plan for how to best continue therapy after discharge. The more comfortable the client feels using an app or accessibility feature, the more likely they are to carry on using it after therapy.
If you want a client to use a variety of apps, it’s often best to start with just one or two at the beginning. Once they’ve mastered those, slowly add more for speech homework. Presenting an iPad loaded with apps can be overwhelming. Consider using folders to get unnecessary apps out of the way.
Pro Tip: Put the most important or frequently used apps on the bottom dock so they’ll always be accessible.
3) Encourage Independence
Keep your hands to yourself as much as possible when using the tablet with a client. It will take longer to give instructions and let the client open the app, adjust the settings, and start the exercise, but these are all necessary steps if the goal is to use the app for speech homework. Learning a series of steps is also a good way to monitor following directions, memory, and executive function skills while preventing learned helplessness.
When doing Naming Practice exercises in the Naming Therapy app, allow your client to press the cues when they’re ready. You might be surprised how long they want to struggle before taking a hint, or how quickly they learn which cues are most helpful and begin self-cueing!
4) Assign a Home Program
Just like a personal trainer at the gym, speech-language pathologists can give a few speech homework routines with recommended durations for each exercise. Alternate comprehension with expression exercises, or focus one day on rate control and another day on volume. Include therapy apps, email, reading the web, or whatever your client needs in the program. See Part 6 of this series for a refresher of ways clients can use apps at home.
For clients with aphasia or cognitive concerns, it might be best to provide two copies of instructions: one for the client to use and another for the caregiver to assist with providing extra cues or activities. A good home program contains enough structure to ensure the client works productively on the right tasks, and enough variety so the client doesn’t get bored.
5) Teach, Monitor, and Adjust
Home programs work best when they are property taught, when progress is monitored, and when exercises are adjusted accordingly. Observe your client and caregivers doing some speech homework to be sure they’re doing it the way you intend. While you may think your instructions are clear, you might be surprised by what you see. Give gentle feedback and demonstrate the best ways to practice.
Monitoring progress is easy (and more accurate than self-report) with apps that generate scores. For impairment-based apps, you’ll want to adjust the difficulty of an exercise to aim for scores in the 70-90% range to avoid frustration or boredom. Help your clients set up their environment and expectations with speech therapy homework tips you can download.
Clients can email reports from Tactus Therapy apps with 2 touches when you put your email address in the settings of their apps. You’ll see that they’re practicing and how they’re doing, and just knowing that you’ll get the report may be enough of a push to get some clients practicing more.
6) Think Outside the App
When recommending an app for home practice, make sure your client is aware of all the creative ways you would use the app to stimulate communication. If your client is selecting a picture to match a word, have them name all the other pictures, too. Filling in the blank to spell word on the screen? Grab a pencil and paper to copy the complete word to also strengthen physical writing skills. Answering comprehension questions about a paragraph is great practice, but reading the story aloud first may also target clearer speech. Your professional expertise can provide more value to each exercise and help your clients make the most of their home practice efforts.
We’ll be showing you how to do more with Tactus Therapy apps on the blog soon – sign up for our monthly newsletter so you won’t miss out!
Successful Speech Homework
When you follow these six tips in your therapy sessions, your clients are more likely to have consistent follow-through on your recommendations and make faster progress as the intensity of their practice increases.
Thanks for reading Getting Started with Apps in Speech Therapy! What did you think of this series? What questions do you still have? What was the most helpful part? Please share your feedback so we can continue to provide you with useful content.
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